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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Stavanger Sunday Walkabout

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Image hosting by PhotobucketBreiavatnet - from Walski's hotel room window

One thing Walski found out about Norway - everything just about shuts down on Sundays. Except for the 7-Elevens that you can find scattered around the city. Another thing Walski discovered is just how bloody expensive everything here in Norway is. Probably the most expensive city Walski's ever been to. Even Tokyo didn't seem this bad.

Stavanger, population 115,000 thereabouts, is Norway's fourth largest city, and is the Oil & Gas hub for the nation. One thing Walski noticed about this country is that a lot of buildings are built in harmony with the surrounding geology. The hotel we're staying at, for example, is built into a rocky hill, with a large boulder seen from below Walski's window. And there are lots of tunnels, with minimal cutting into the glacier sculpted landscape.

Two years from now, Stavanger will be European Capital of Culture 2008, an honor it will share with Liverpool. The selected city gets to showcase its culture, and retains the title for one year. Great program, don't you think?

In any case, walking about town on Sunday morning, Walski noticed that there is a lot of art all over the city. One interesting series of sculptures is called Broken Column.

Image hosting by PhotobucketOne of the Broken Column statues, beside Stavanger Cathedral

It consists of 23 identical 1.95m tall statues, each one installed at an altitude of exacly 1.95m lower than the next. The series of installations is the work of British artist Antony Gormley. These figures have been placed at various spots around the city, some indoors, some inside shops, and one even in a private home. The series of sculptures were commissioned between December 1999 and 2003 (more information here).

Now, that's imaginative public art. Something completely lacking back home in Malaysia, where giant fruits, pitcher plants, drums and what-not, adorn select roundabouts around the country, in their wonderfully tacky splendour.
(more Stavanger walkabout in the full post)

Incidentally, Walski stumbled across this blog, by a transplanted Indonesian by the name of Tanty. Lot's of nice photographs of Stavanger, and its surroundings, for you to look at.

The rain came on and off the whole Sunday. Apparently this wet weather had been around for the past two weeks. And rain in 12 degC weather is not very pleasant. Take Walski's word for it.

We saw some more street art around town, which was pretty much deserted. One that caught Walski's eye was this bit of grafitti, which adorns the parking lot just outside the Stavanger Petroleum Museum.

Image hosting by PhotobucketStreet art - something you don't see encouraged in Malaysia

Grafitti, if done properly, can be quite attractive. Another thing that Malaysia lacks - out of the box thinking when it comes to art works.

And sheep! Great bronze, heavy metal sheep!

Image hosting by Photobucket"Baa.. Baa.." the Heavy Metal sheep say...

That's one thing about European cities that make 'em interesting places to visit - art everywhere, in various styles, shapes and forms. It's no wonder artists from all over the world seem to end up at various places in the European continent. Artistic expression is encouraged, with less stiffling rules and conditions like what we find in Malaysia. Even the other Asian cities are starting to catch up.

And so the rest of the day was spent wandering around the city. Ducking under whatever shade we could find whenever the heavens decided to unleash its torrents...

More of the surroundings in a later post - Walski's got some studying to do. You know... training and all that...